Three semesters down, one to go

Tomorrow marks the first day of my last semester in graduate school. How did this happen so fast? Life. You’re passing before my eyes already.

Today, the School of Government held their Assessment Center–a day of mock interviews and group exercises for students. I don’t know why more second years don’t take advantage of this. It’s a safe way to get critical feedback on your interviewing skills. I’m planning to take the Foreign Service Officer Test, which for those who are successful, includes a group exercise interview, so I’m happy to get all the feedback I can.

My individual interview experience was helpful. Roger Stancil from the Town of Chapel Hill (who coincidentally managed Fayetteville for 20 years and raised his children there) and Libby Hodges in Planning in Alamance County were my interviewers. Good feedback. Nuts I gathered from this experience:

  • Focus on the resume. The cover letter is an afterthought, if your resume merits a second look.
  • Also, and I knew this, I need to work on putting a bow on my responses. Re: STAR responses, I can speak to situation, my task in the situation, my actions, and the results, but the zinger is to tie those responses back to the job you’re interviewing for. Duh.
  • Last, take my time. Take a moment to think about the question and form a story in my mind that has a beginning and an end.

All in all, a good use of time. The group experience as well was beneficial. I learned, or was reminded, of the importance of framing. Before jumping into solutions, start with answering who are we, who’s our audience, what’s our message? My group got this wrong this afternoon. We jumped right into solving the technical problems without first weighing if there were any adaptive challenges to tackle. Again, very good experience and will be helpful if, knock on wood, I am EVER successful at getting past the FSOT written test, personal narrative, and finally to the in-person interview.

I applied for two jobs this week–one at Durham Technical Community College and another today at the North Carolina Community College System. Whether I get called back or not for these jobs, it’s good to get into the practice of applying, and I need to be actively looking for a job, as the Foreign Service is a Plan B or even Plan C, long-term path.

Another highlight of the day that I want to mentally celebrate is that our Program Director Bill Rivenbark asked if I’d speak about my internship at an upcoming conference. He’d asked our PWE (Professional Learning Experience) professor Margaret Henderson for a recommendation, and she said I had a good paper. Now, it could be that Margaret had my name top of mind, since I sent her a thank you note at the end of the semester (once grades were in, I’m not a kiss@$$), but I’ll take it, since I’ve not had great confidence in my writing in grad school.

WTH, I’ll take this moment to celebrate also, since it’s only to myself, that I made all H’s this semester (save the one P I got in Mediation Skills. Thank you Professor John Stephens for giving out such high marks that my 18.5/20 on our lone assignment wasn’t enough to merit an H. I hate that grading on a curve.)! I haven’t cared for grades as long as I’ve made Ps (P = degree), so it was a wonderful surprise to see the grades appear one by one and have them be Hs. That means I got an H on my 20-page, bear of a paper for economic development seminar and an H in community development. That means a lot, because I was definitely the weakest link in my group with two very smart, planning students.

And that’s ok. I’ll celebrate it. (Shoot anything that flies. Claim anything that falls.)


Workforce Development Dollars — Has your community cashed in?

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